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Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager
Nov 18, 2021
Over the past few months, the Wex's Learning & Public Practice team has been working with four Ohio-based artists to contribute to existing public programs and to consider different ways for the center to engage with the central Ohio community. Their work is being funded as part of the 2021–22 Artist Residency Awards. Recently, we checked in with one of those artists, Jonna Twigg.
On a sunny Thursday morning, Twigg welcomed this visitor to her studio in downtown Columbus—a long, bright, beautiful room in a vintage commercial building with high ceilings and lots of windows. "I just moved into this space three months ago," she explained. "I was working for three years without a proper space—from home and before that, from a room at my grandma's place. I had a studio at Blockfort for a minute but it wasn't quite the right fit for me. I have a lot of stuff, as you can see."
Her new workspace is filled with materials the artist amassed for her business, Twigg's Bindery. A retail source for handmade books, artwork bindery, and bindery workshops, Twigg operated out of a Brooklyn storefront before moving back to Columbus with her husband and two young children. Once in Ohio, she scaled back her bindery work to custom orders, returned to art making, took on trustee duties at the Columbus Museum of Art and Columbus College of Art & Design (her alma mater), and connected with Learning & Public Practice Director Dionne Custer Edwards through fellow artists and Wex Store manager Matt Reber.
Two sturdy furniture pieces that came from her childhood home hold neatly organized tools, stamping foils, and examples of previous work. "I think these might have been from Pages actually," she noted, pulling from a narrow shelf a notebook that she designed for the Wex's creative writing program for high schoolers. "Yes, so I scored the cover, then I would drill the spine, and then the Pages students would do this simple pamphlet binding stitch, then use the book during the program and their experiences with a number of artists. All the teaching artists also got one and together we bound them over Zoom. It was this really funny, interesting experience."
"That's something I'm reaching back for when thinking about this residency," Twigg explained. "Because people took such possession of these books after sewing them, I thought it'd be really interesting to start thinking more provocatively about what is in the books. If you could bring people in to actually do the simple stitch, how are they going to engage with what's inside?"
On the other side of the studio, near flat files and rolls of book paper, there's a table adorned with a variety of small toys and doodads, what Twigg describes as "all the things that I’ve been stealing from my kids over the years that I love and spend a lot of time thinking about, actually as it pertains to this residency."
"I'm interested in how to make some kind of intervention in the contemporary art space that just kind of reduces alienation," she went on. "Like, why is it that people feel so alienated when they come into some of those spaces? They don't know how to understand or engage, or what they're supposed to do, or what they're supposed to think. I really see that from my kids. I'm struck by the fact that they feel comfortable in museum spaces because I take them there. But when I get there, they don't really have anything to do. They take in the arts, they look at it, but it's hard to know what kind of engagement is actually happening. They're not really allowed to run or make noise. They can't touch anything. Nothing's really at their height, you know?"
So Twigg is putting her mind to how the Wex might make itself more comfortable and inviting for all ages. "One of the things I think of with this residency is crafting arts objects that specifically test or blur the boundaries. made specifically with young folks in mind."
"If you want someone to understand calculus by the time they're 18 years old, we start [teaching] at four and five with addition," she added "If you want people to understand how to use and enjoy contemporary visual art as an adult, when there are really serious topics being brought up, you need to consider them at this age as well."
We're excited to work with Twigg and see what comes from her residency work with the Wex. Look for updates over the coming months, here and on our social feeds.
Top of page: Jonna Twigg in her studio; all photos: Melissa Starker